01/26/2007

Calif. deputies fatally shoot suspected drunk driver

By Gregor McGavin
The Press Enterprise

Residents of a quiet Home Gardens cul-de-sac were still in shock Wednesday, hours after Riverside County sheriff's deputies shot and killed a suspected drunken driver authorities say tried to ram a patrol car.

Yellow crime-scene tape remained up as investigators probed the scene of the shooting on April Drive and September Way for much of the day. Though the shooting took place about 11:40 p.m. Tuesday, residents of a half-dozen homes were still unable to get past the sheriff's barrier for the Wednesday morning commute.

"I heard the police screaming and then shooting, a lot of shooting," Olga Martin, 40, said from her doorway, yards from the scene.

Sheriff's officials said the driver of a dark green Jaguar hit a marked patrol car. Four deputies opened fire on the 41-year-old driver from Sun City after he ignored their orders to get out of the car and turn off the ignition, sheriff's spokesman Jerry Franchville said.

The shooting followed a seven-minute chase that started about 11:30 p.m. on a nearby dirt road and ended in the housing tract .

"The driver made a U-turn and accelerated toward the deputies," Franchville said. "He ended up crashing into one of the marked police units, and that's when deputies started to open fire."

The Jaguar, with the driver's body inside, and the patrol car remained in place after daybreak as investigators searched the scene for evidence. What looked like more than a dozen bullet holes pockmarked the two driver's-side windows, and the rear window on the passenger's side was completely shattered out.

The front left corner of the vehicle appeared to be touching the driver's door of the patrol car, which was missing the driver's window.

Sheriff's officials would not say whether anyone was in the threatened patrol car or where the four deputies were in relation to the Jaguar when they opened fire.

Franchville would not identify the deputies. The identity of the Jaguar driver also was being withheld until family members could be notified.

Residents said they heard deputies yelling commands at the driver and anywhere from 15 to 30 shots. One round hit one of the homes, a neighbor said.

No deputies or residents were injured, Franchville said.

Paul and Rosalie Castillo, who live several houses east along April Avenue from the scene, said they were woken by the gunshots.

Paul Castillo said he heard a rapid series of what sounded like pistol shots, then a louder shot, as though from a shotgun.

"I never shook so much in my life," Rosalie Castillo said.

Martha Cruz, 39, said she hunkered down in her bedroom with her husband and two daughters when the gunfire erupted.

"We never had any problems like this around here, so it's kind of scary," she said.

Some residents of the cordoned-off cul-de-sac took the day off from work because they were stranded by the crime scene. Cruz had a deputy call her 15-year-old daughter's school to excuse her absence.

This was the first fatal officer-involved shooting in Riverside County this year. San Bernardino police shot and killed a 17-year-old earlier this month after he shot at an officer during a foot chase, police said.

Copyright 2007 The Press Enterprise, Inc.
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